How can I change my Cygwin home folder after installation?

How can I change my Cygwin home folder after installation?

Starting with Cygwin 1.7.34, the recommended way to do this is to add a custom db_home setting to /etc/nsswitch.conf. A common wish when doing this is to make your Cygwin home directory equal to your Windows user profile directory. This setting will do that:

db_home: windows

Or, equivalently:

db_home: /%H

You need to use the latter form if you want some variation on this scheme, such as to segregate your Cygwin home files into a subdirectory of your Windows user profile directory:

db_home: /%H/cygwin

There are several other alternative schemes for the windows option plus several other % tokens you can use instead of %H or in addition to it. See the nsswitch.conf syntax description in the Cygwin User Guide for details.

If you installed Cygwin prior to 1.7.34 or have run its mkpasswd utility so that you have an /etc/passwd file, you can change your Cygwin home directory by editing your users entry in that file. Your home directory is the second-to-last element on your users line in /etc/passwd

Whichever way you do it, this causes the HOME environment variable to be set during shell startup.²

See this FAQ item for more on the topic.


  1. Consider moving /etc/passwd and /etc/group out of the way in order to use the new SAM/AD-based mechanism instead.

  2. While it is possible to simply set %HOME% via the Control Panel, it is officially discouraged. Not only does it unceremoniously override the above mechanisms, it doesnt always work, such as when running shell scripts via cron.

Cygwin 1.7.34+

For those using Cygwin 1.7.34 or higher Cygwin supports configuring how to fetch home directory, login shell, and gecos information in /etc/nsswitch.conf. This is detailed in the Cygwin User Guide section:

If youve previously created an /etc/passwd or /etc/group file youll want to remove those and configure Cygwin using the new Windows Security model to POSIX mappings.

[[ -f /etc/passwd ]] && mv /etc/passwd /etc/passwd.bak
[[ -f /etc/group ]] && mv /etc/group /etc/group.bak

The /etc/nsswitch.conf files db_home: setting defines how Cygwin fetches the users home directory. The default setting for db_home: is

db_home: /home/%U

So by default, Cygwin just sets the home dir to /home/$USERNAME. You can change that though to point at any other custom path you want. The supported wildcard characters are:

  • %u The Cygwin username (thats lowercase u).
  • %U The Windows username (thats uppercase U).
  • %D Windows domain in NetBIOS style.
  • %H Windows home directory in POSIX style. Note that, for the db_home: setting, this only makes sense right after the preceeding slash, as in db_home: /%H/cygwin
  • %_ Since space and TAB characters are used to separate the schemata, a space in the filename has to be given as %_ (thats an underscore).
  • %% A per-cent character.

In place of a path, you can specify one of four named path schemata that are predefined.

  1. windows The users home directory is set to the same directory which is used as Windows home directory, typically something along the lines of %USERPROFILE% or C:Users$USERNAME. Of course, the Windows directory is converted to POSIX-style by Cygwin.

  2. cygwin AD only: The users home directory is set to the POSIX path given in the cygwinHome attribute from the cygwinUser auxiliary class. See also the section called “The cygwin schema”.

  3. unix AD only: The users home directory is set to the POSIX path given in the unixHomeDirectory attribute from the posixAccount auxiliary class. See also the section called “The unix schema”.

  4. desc The users home directory is set to the POSIX path given in the home=… XML-alike setting in the users description attribute in SAM or AD. See the section called “The desc schema” for a detailed description.

The following will make the users home directory in Cygwin the same as is used for the Windows home directory.

db_home: windows

Cygwin 1.7.33 or earlier

For those using Cygwin 1.7.33 or earlier, update to the latest version Cygwin and remove previously used /etc/passwd and /etc/group files, then see the steps above.

Else, follow these older steps below.

Firstly, set a Windows environment variable for HOME that points to your user profile:

  1. Open System on the Control Panel
  2. On the Advanced tab click Environment Variables (toward the bottom)
  3. In the User Variables area click New…
  4. For Variable name enter HOME
  5. For Variable value enter %USERPROFILE%
  6. Click OK in all the open dialog boxes to apply this new setting

Now we are going to update the Cygwin /etc/passwd file with the Windows %HOME% variable we just created. Shell logins and remote logins via ssh will rely on /etc/passwd to tell them the location of the users $HOME path.

At the Cygwin bash command prompt type the following:

cp /etc/passwd /etc/passwd.bak
mkpasswd -l -p $(cygpath -H)  > /etc/passwd 
mkpasswd -d -p $(cygpath -H)  >> /etc/passwd 

The -d switch tells mkpasswd to include DOMAIN users, while -l is to only output LOCAL machine users. This is important if youre using a PC at work where the user information is obtained from a Windows Domain Controller.

Now, you can also do the same for groups, though this is not necessary unless you will be using a computer that is part of a Windows Domain. Cygwin reads group information from the Windows account databases, but you can add an /etc/group file if your machine is often disconnected from its Domain Controller.

At the Cygwin bash prompt type the following:

cp /etc/group /etc/group.bak
mkgroup -l > /etc/group 
mkgroup -d >> /etc/group 

Now, exit Cygwin and start it up again. You should find that your HOME path points to the same location as your Windows User Profile — i.e. /cygdrive/c/Users/username

How can I change my Cygwin home folder after installation?

I did something quite simple. I did not want to change the windows 7 environment variable. So I directly edited the Cygwin.bat file.

@echo off
set HOME=C:pathtohome
chdir C:appscygwinbin
bash --login -i

This just starts the local shell with this home directory; that is what I wanted. I am not going to remotely access this, so this worked for me.

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